Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Planning for Success

As I reflect upon the school year, two areas of concern kept popping into my mind.

1.  Absent Work
2. Trash

While you may be thinking that I've finally fallen off my rocker, please hear me out.

We have two types of absent students - the chronic absentees who miss every Monday or at least one day every two weeks and the ones who are in every activity imaginable.  There are a lot of activities in the spring. A LOT.

This past year I took a step forward and created a file similar to this picture.  I was sure this would be the cure to my pain.  While it helped, it was more for me.  Setting up a management system where the students would go to the folder and get the work would probably have been a good idea.  Unfortunately that simple thought did not strike at an appropriate time.
I'd love to give credit.  This
Pinterest photo leads to a
Tumblr photo.
Here is my new plan for this year.

If you would like the label, you can download it HERE.

Will this take some training up front?  Yes.  Will it be worth it come crazy-time in the spring?  I hope so.  Thoughts are still mulling on how exactly to manage this.  It's possible we will have jobs that rotate in our groups - supplies, absent work, turning in papers, and trash.  

These folders are going to be placed in the storage containers that I will somehow acquire before August 10.  (Want to make a donation? I need 8 containers!)

This photo is from the Superhero Teacher's Resources

Trash was my second area of concern.  I implemented I'm Lovin' Lit's interactive notebooks last year. I was very happy with the outcome, but getting there was messy.

I headed out to my local Dollar Trees to see what they had for containers.  If you are a teacher and have never been to Dollar Tree, go right now!  They have a teacher section.  If you go early, there is a decent selection.  Need bulletin board letters?  They have them- for ONE DOLLAR!   Each store has a slightly different selection, and I will admit going to all three Dollar Tree stores the other day.

Dollar Tree - $1.00

The cute pencil folder pictured above?  Pack of three for $1.00 from the Dollar Tree.

I was SUPER excited to find these small trash cans.  They will fit perfectly on top of the containers I will acquire before August 10.  I added numbers to both sides of the trash can.  These will be my group numbers.

My trip to the Dollar Tree(s) resulted in 9 (3 packs of 3) absent folders, 8 trash cans, and one set of letters.  Two of my biggest reflection concerns solved for under $15 and a plan to implement.

What new things are you planning for next fall?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Week 2 is in the Books!

Week 2 is in the books.

My days go by so fast!  I'm trying to fit as much as possible into our two class periods, but sometimes I feel things are disjointed.  My goal is to have smoother transitions next week.

August 17
Nonfiction Text Features - This was our first attempt at our Interactive Notebooks.  I modified this Nonfiction Text Features Book so as to not take up so many pages in our books.  It took longer than I would have liked, but the information and examples are solid and will be a good reference.

I bought a Greek and Latin Root Word book from TPT.  I used parts of it after spring break last year and felt it was quality.  After discussing why we should learn Greek and Latin roots (noctambulist example), we dug into the first lesson.

August 18
Students took the STAR test.  I hope to use this as a baseline for grouping students and also give me a better idea of articles we can read.

Last year, I used a Scholastic Scope article titled Great Penguin Rescue.  I like using it to teach nonfiction text features because it contains many of the features and has engaging information.  Today was also our first attempt at writing GIST statements.

I first told students to imagine telling their parents about the article.  They were given a minute to just think about how they would summarize.  Next they actually told a neighbor what they would say to a person who had not read the article.  Finally students wrote their statements.  The GIST Statements had to be 25 words exactly.  They loved me for that.  HA!

By the time that was completed, our time together was up!

August 19
We start Wednesdays with 7 Word Sentence.  I put a photograph on the Smartboard, and students need to compose sentences that are at least 7 words.  This is one way we are working on descriptive sentences.

In order to finish the GIST activity, students refreshed their memories by rereading their statements.  Next they shared in small group.  The final task was to come to group consensus in order to write a group GIST.  These statements were then written on large posters and hung in the room.  Students completed a gallery walk to read all the statements.

Students reading each group's statement.

Groups then received 2 pieces of a sticky note so they could vote on their two favorite statements.  Here are the winners from each hour.

Tomorrow, as a review, students will vote on the best statement from all three hours.

As a review of nonfiction text features, students labeled the article with features (title, subheading, photo, caption, diagram, bold words, etc).

Our last activity of the day was to annotate our AoW.  This week we read Farmers demand for drones moves up, up, and away from Newsela.  I once again modeled annotating and students just copied what I annotated.  They then responded to the questions on their own.

August 20
We started our day with voting for the best GIST statement.  Number 3 was the clear winner, but my last hour realized they had over the 25 word limit.  I had to do some quick editing to show it could be paired down to 25 words.  They were not happy. There was almost a mutiny.  :-)

Students were able to choose a magazine article to complete the Magazine Analysis (text features again).  Student choice leads to more engagement during this activity.  

During the second hour, we had stations.  Half of the class was working on these Nonfiction Text Features Task Cards (mainly graph/chart reading).  The other half did vocabulary activities.  I had an independent matching activity and a Memory game activity.  Students really seemed to enjoy this.

Students did have homework tonight.  There were 20 scenarios, and they had to identify which text feature was being used.  We will go over this first thing tomorrow and then take a quiz that is identical in format.

I was exhausted at the end of today!

August 21
After correcting the homework, clarifying, and answering questions, students took a quiz over the nonfiction text features.  They also took a quiz over their vocabulary.

In order to practice annotation and GIST statements, we read another article today.  We read Arizona Cardinals new linebacker coach is a woman, again from Newsela.  Using the models from class, students tried their hand at annotating on their own.  We then completed the GIST process again.  It is amazing how much better the statements are during this second time.  When learning a new strategy, I like to repeat it several times in a short period of time in order to cement in the procedures.  

Next week I need to take some time to make sure notebooks are set up correctly.  I noticed that several students have things all crazy already.  I don't want to start the year with bad habits.  Checking in with students on the books they are reading will also be a priority.  I know I said I had voracious readers, but I also apparently have voracious AR Test Takers.  Holy Cow! I need to definitely get that in check next week.

I think I am going to try to reflect each night and the publish the blog entry at the end of the week. 

Until next time!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

First Week BTS

Last March, at EdcampOKC, I attended a blogging session.  We discussed the idea of teachers creating reflective blogs after each week of teaching.  I was able to do this for two weeks.  Then we hit spring break and then testing season.  It is hard to be reflective about standing around watching students take hours of tests.  Therefore I set a goal of starting the new school year blogging.  The following showcases Room 7's activities.

The first days back to school are always a whirlwind of activity.  We started on a Monday, so the end of the week was especially windy!

This year 6th grade is piloting combining our reading and English classes. Basically we took the positions of the reading teacher and the English teacher and shook it up a bit.  I know the scheduling was difficult, and I am very thankful that our administration took the extra time to try this.
I.LOVE.THIS.  We read.  We write.  We write.  We read.  It just makes sense.

Monday - We started our time together with a challenge.  The Marshmallow Challenge to be exact.  This was an activity I had pinned and wanted to try.  After attending EdcampEOC and listening to Scott Haselwood share his experiences with it, I knew it would become our first #amazeballs activity.

My goal was for the students to discover this class would be one that stretched their thinking, encouraged discussion and collaboration, and, quite simply, would be fun.  I feel this was accomplished.  While not every group was able to meet the challenge, everyone was able to learn.  Our pictures are posted here.  I realize this is more of a STEM activity, but I can make almost anything in to an ELA assignment.  :-)  This first writing from students will help guide my instruction.


Tuesday - Today involved completing the book walk activity that I had wanted to do on Monday, but we ran out of time.  This summer I read Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer.  After listening to Jason Stephenson talk about how he implements this in his high school English class, I knew I had to try.  (Have I mentioned how COLLABORATION is SO IMPORTANT for educators?)

First I told students that I was not concerned with AR points (cue the collective sigh of relief). Here were my other points:
  • It is okay to read a book you have read before.  You will probably understand it better/find new ideas the second time around.  Don't we rewatch movies we love?  Why not reread books we love?
  • It is okay to read a book below your AR level.  Reading should be a pleasurable experience.  If it is a good story and entertains me, why does it have to be "at my level"?
  • It is okay to read a book above your level if the subject interests you.  However, you have to make sure you are checking for understanding.
  • It is okay to abandon a book.  I have abandoned many movies  - I can do the same with books.
Each group of desks held four-five books.  As they perused the books and held conversations about them, they were encouraged to write down titles on the paper titled "Books I MIGHT want to read".  After rotating through all the groups, students were able to choose a book to check out.

Maybe it is this particular group of students.  Maybe it was the freedom to read whatever they wanted.  All I know is that students were excited to read and spent the next 20 minutes engrossed in their books.

The other activity on my Tuesday plan was OPTIC.  This is a tried and true activity I do every year.  Students enjoy it.  I like it because it is a non-threatening activity that gets everyone involved.  It also sets the stage for looking closely at images so that we can do our weekly 7 Word Sentences.  I was only able to get to this with my 3rd/4th hour class.  I was able to fit it in on Friday for my other two sections.

Wednesday - We discussed Formal/Informal Language.  I always do this at the beginning of the year so students know my expectations for writing.  I blogged about this last year, and I pretty much followed it again this year.  Writing in text message language is surprising difficult for some 6th graders.  I'm going to look at this like a positive problem during this lesson.  

Thursday - Part of one class period was spent in library orientation.  We spent some of our time together with our first AoW.  We annotated together to give students a model to use during subsequent lessons.  I keep telling students Reading is Thinking.  Some have blank expressions on their faces when I say this.  We will need to spend extra time next week really digging into annotating.  Modeling my own thinking will be an integral part of helping them to understand.

My students were voracious readers this week.  They have finished the books they checked out on Tuesday, and they all want to know the procedure for returning and checking out more.  I don't know if this is because I allowed them to choose "easier" books, if it is because they choose books they enjoy, or because they don't have much homework yet.  I've learned sometimes it is best not to question, so I am going with they are voracious readers.  :-)

I freely admit that I was at a loss for Friday's plans.  Each group of students is vastly different, and I am struggling a bit with pacing.  My last section had ID pictures taken after library orientation, so tomorrow I need to take the other two sections.  After stressing about it all night, I decided it would be okay if each section was different on Friday.  

Friday - We reviewed Formal/Informal language and took a quiz.  We had ID pictures taken.  We had a fire drill.  We prepared our Interactive Notebooks with our Table of Contents and our Reading Log.  Basically we did whatever we had not yet gotten to during the week.  

Saturday - No, we did not have school on Saturday.  I just wanted to document that I spent 4 hours in my classroom on a Saturday to prepare for next week.  Even though I worked all summer on gathering ideas, I find it difficult to actually plan the lessons until I know the students.  And, from the amount of cars in the parking lot, I was not the only one to spend Saturday afternoon in my classroom.

I'm excited to share more with and learn from my students next week. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Who's #notready?

Vanessa Perez blogged about her #notreadytour challenge.  Most classrooms undergo massive transformations over the summer.  I'm using this blog space to meet her challenge.

There are many types of summer teachers.  Some wait until July, others August, while some stand outside the doors waiting for the wax to dry in order to begin working in the classroom.  I fall into the latter category.  My goal is to get the classroom set up so the focus can return to curriculum.  This year included a new classroom as well as add a new subject.  So yes, I was impatiently waiting for the wax to dry.  

June met me with choices.  It is possible there were still "Wet Wax" signs on the doors, but I promise permission was given to enter the doors.

A sea of desks and LOTS of stuff on the counter.
Oh, the possibilities!
Love those shiny floors!
There were many organization and decorative decisions to resolved.  I love the vibrant colors that teachers use, but the OCD in me had to stick with the red that is in the tile and on the walls.

My reading corner.  I blogged about this before.  Books are still piled on desks while I decide how to arrange them.
Those are grammar dots and are designed to be a reference for often confused issues.  
This is my teacher corner.  I'm not using a traditional desk - just the computer desk. (That bulletin board is not done.)
 My goal was a space to offer additional assistance.
The bookshelf will be used to house our Interactive Notebooks.
This bulletin board is command center for the lunch menu, sports' schedules, and classroom assignment calendar.
The pocket chart can be moved to cover up the board (command hooks & curtain rod) when we use Multi-Sensory Grammar.

While my physical space is ready, I am #notready.  Everything I want to do curriculum-wise is still a jumble in my brain.  Hopefully that puzzle will be worked out soon.  August 10 is only two weeks away!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Blogger Challenge: Why Teach?

ThisTeacherSings recently blogged about why she teaches.  She then challenged other #oklaed bloggers to address the same topic.

Homework?  It's SUMMERTIME!  But I am not one to back down from a challenge.

So, why do I do it?  Why teach?  Why did I go back to teaching after trying out the instructional coaching gig?

Answer:  It makes my heart happy.

I taught for 12.5 years before becoming an instructional coach.  Coaching became my work for the next 3.5 years.  It was an amazing experience, but there was always something missing.  I can still remember the feeling of complete and utter peace when I hit the send button accepting a teaching position in March 2014.

My heart was happy again.

When I started school, my mom purchased a spiral-bound booklet to hold all of my report cards.  On the back you were able to list different memories from each grade.  The only part I really filled in was the "When I Grow Up I Want To Be.." section.

In 3rd grade I would use purple carbon paper to make worksheets for my kindergarten brother.  Why the carbon paper?  Of course every teacher needed an answer key!

In 5th grade, I read everything there was to read on Helen Keller.  Her story is inspirational, and I was determined to be like Annie Sullivan.  Somewhere along the way I realized Annie Sullivan had a trait that I constantly have to work for - patience.  

In high school, I taught Sunday School.  I suppose at this point I started my first lesson planning experiences - except they occurred on Saturday nights instead of Sunday nights.  HA! 

I always knew I was going to be a teacher.  It was hard for me to understand my college friends who were Undecided.  How could you not know what you wanted to do with your life?  While I understand it now, it was foreign to me at the time.  

My brain thinks in terms of classroom activities/lesson plans.  In a book store, I gravitate to the teacher section.  When surfing the Internet or browsing through Pinterest, inevitably a teaching related site will appear on my screen. It takes effort to not think about teaching.

When my daughter says she wants to be a teacher when she grows up, I don't discourage her.  I don't tell her that she can make more money doing something else.  I don't tell her that she can do more than just teach.  I simply smile.  I hope that she can find something that she is passionate about.  I hope she can find something that makes her heart happy.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Thinking of August in June

Everyone is giving me a hard time for being in my classroom already, but I can't help it.  I LOVE getting ready for a new school year.   A move down the hall and around the corner also gives me the excuse of changing classrooms thus needing to be in my room early.  :-)

Classrooms should be inviting places that promote learning.  Students need to feel safe and comfortable.  Students who have not yet discovered a love of reading will hopefully have a chance this year to find their inner readers.

I am super excited about my reading corner.  If you can't find me, I might be curled up there with a book.

My kids attended VBS, and they had AMAZING trees.  I decided I needed to have one, so I searched Pinterest.  After a trip to Dollar Tree, I had my supplies and got started!

4 Pool Noodles
Lunch Bags (I used around 50)
Duct Tape
Tissue Paper
Hot Glue Gun

Arrange the pool noodles and use duct tape.  You are covering it with the paper; it doesn't matter what it looks like underneath!  I did use some plain brown wrapping paper for the thicker part at the bottom.  Just crumple before taping down.  Cut the bottom off of the paper bag open it up, and then crumple (or smash it if you are having a bad day!).  Open it back up and slip it over the end of the pool noodle.

I propped it up for a better visual.  The tree is 1 1/2 pool noodles tall.  Taper the ends of the noodles.

I kept adding branches until I was satisfied.  I also add some roots to the tree to help keep it propped up.  I had a thick cardboard tube that was in the center of the rug purchased on clearance at Target for only $30!.  

I have found the best adhesive to the cinder block wall is hot glue.  I tested it last year and was satisfied it would not peel the paint.

I used three different shades of green tissue paper to create the leaves.  I could write all the steps or just direct you to the link I used from All Things Mamma. I modified it a bit while fluffing to fit the shape I wanted. I used hot glue to attach these to the ends of the branches.

I was worried when I started this project that it would be a Pinterest Fail, but I am very happy with the results.

My other project this week was making my READ letters.  I used the cardboard letters from Hobby Lobby and painted them red.  I traced the letters onto scrapbook paper and cut them out. Then I used a thin layer of Modge Podge to adhere it to the letter.  Once it had dried, I coated the whole letter with Modge Podge to seal.  

After a week and half in my room, I have about 1/6 of it done!  And you wonder why I am in my classroom already!

I need to take a decorating break for a few days in order to focus on the new Oklahoma ELA Standards.  We'll be working on Draft 2 in order to have it ready for EngageOK.  Be sure to register if you haven't done so yet!

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader by Donalyn Miller arrived at my door this week. I can't wait to delve into this book.  Who doesn't want to help a children find their inner readers?

I would love to read about what you have been doing this summer!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Productive Week (March 9)

I promise I didn't forget about reflecting.  Several drafts have been floating around in my head.  Besides it being the week before Spring Break, I was also planning a trip to Iowa.  One of my best friends laid her father to rest, which led to lots of reflection that wasn't school related.  Time was spent discussing where we wanted to be buried.  The whole conversation was surreal because these were the same girls with whom the biggest question used to be, "What are we doing tonight?"

But back to education...

I'm dedicating this week to TPT.  While I could have created all of this on my own, I decided to support my fellow educators and not reinvent the wheel.  I may have improvised and improved the wheel some, but isn't that what we do with any materials we use?

Monday, March 9

We continued working with the Dog Day information my students started the previous Friday.  I impressed the kids with my math skills.  Who knew their English teacher knew how to add and multiply?!?  Researchers need many skills to make informed decisions!  With their new/reinforced knowledge, students decided which type of dog they would try to persuade their parents to allow them to have.  
Math - in English!
This activity went okay.  It took MUCH longer than I anticipated.  We only got about half of what I wanted to accomplish completed.

Tuesday, March 10
Students came to class with their graphic organizers completed.  The hard part is done!  I modeled how to turn the question from the graphic organizer into a topic sentence.  We then worked together to create topic sentences for the other three paragraphs.  Students then had time to complete their persuasive letters.  One student asked me to please put a picture of our topic sentences on Instagram.  YES!  I took a picture of every hour and posted it on our Instagram account as well as on our class website.

Today was a good day.  Students had decent ideas for topic sentences.  This allowed students who struggle with a place to start each paragraph and allowed those with better writing skills to refine/expand what we discussed in class to in order to create their own topic sentences.

Wednesday, March 11
Generalization is the word of the day.  From my very unscientific poll, about 10 students knew what a generalization was before this lesson.  I found a through explanation in this PowerPoint on TPT.

Making Generalizations Powerpoint (including valid vs. faulty)

I'm not one to do PowerPoint karaoke, so I had to find a way to make it interactive and keep the students engaged.  My simple solution was to give each student a note card.  As we went through the slides, students analyzed the examples and held up the side of the card they felt it represented.  Understanding the difference between fact, opinion, and generalization will aid in their persuasive/argument writing.

While I enjoyed sharing this information for the first three classes, I had to really focus with my last three classes.  It is hard to keep up the WOW! factor after doing the same lesson multiple times.  

Thursday, March 12
Yesterday my students demonstrated they could pick out the valid and invalid generalizations, so I now needed them to write their own.  First we reviewed the signal words.  Thank you, Crafting Connections!

To practice this new skill, students worked with partners.  There were six different examples with sports facts on them.  Students were required to write a valid generalization and an invalid generalization on sticky notes.  Then they rotated to the next station.  While at the new station, they had to read the facts and read the generalizations the previous group wrote.  To make life interesting, students could not use the same signal words as the previous group.  The kids just LoVe when I do things like that to them!  

Writing valid and invalid generalizations.

This picture makes me smile.
It has 6th grade written all over it.

It was one of those days that I left satisfied.  I was able to walk around, spot check, and clarify for students who needed some extra help.  Reading the sentences allowed me to correct misconceptions before we advanced too far into the activity.  

I did miss my 3rd hour today.  A pep rally was held for our high school girls' basketball team.  They won Thursday night, but they lost on Friday.  :-(  

With three days left of Spring Break, I had better get planning what to do next week!